Sunday December 18th, 2005
New CD's this past week:
- Anthony Hamilton - Ain't nobody worrying
Music news headlines this week:
Jamie Foxx Returns To Musical Roots
A funny thing happened to Jamie Foxx on the way to starting a music career.
Acting on a girlfriend's dare to take the stage during a comedy club's
open-mic night, Foxx parlayed his humorous derring-do into a successful TV
run ("In Living Color," "The Jamie Foxx Show"). Trading the small screen
for the big screen-plus a string of forgettable films-Foxx locked into his
acting stride with several key movies ("Any Given Sunday," "Ali,"
"Collateral"). These opened the door to his Academy Award-winning turn in
But come Dec. 20, he is back to square one -- at least musically speaking.
That is when J Records will release Foxx's first album for the label,
Songwriter/producer Sean Garrett promises a surprising album. "People will
recognize that they should take him seriously as an artist," says Garrett,
who contributed two songs to the set. "His heart is in it. He really wants
For his part, Foxx insists "Unpredictable" is not an exercise in vanity or
about achieving an elusive entertainment trifecta.
"Nobody's looking at it that way," he says. "I never brought 'Jamie Foxx
with an Oscar' into the room. I just brought the humble, starving artist
not trying to force anything. If it's successful, that's great. If not,
you go back to the drawing board. Or you leave it alone."
He did just that after the 1994 release of "Peep This." Released by the
Fox Music label, the album reflected such Foxx influences as Lionel Richie
and Marvin Gaye. Though not a commercial standout, "Peep This" did yield a
modest hit, "Infatuation," which reached No. 36 on the Billboard R&B
Foxx's musical alter ego did not command attention again until his guest
turn in 2003 on "Slow Jamz," the Kanye West-helmed No. 1 R&B/pop crossover
hit by Twista. Following his 2004 performance of the song at the fabled
pre-Grammy Award party staged annually by BMG North America chairman/CEO
Clive Davis-in addition to onstage pairings with Alicia Keys and Angie
Stone-Foxx signed with J Records.
"I was impressed by his natural passion for music," Davis says. "He's a
true music lover. When he's not making a movie, he's in a studio making
During his childhood in Terrell, Texas, Foxx took piano lessons, was music
director of the church choir and started his own R&B band. Before his
career took its comedic detour, Foxx attended United States International
University in San Diego (now Alliant International University) on a
classical piano scholarship-quite a distance from today's
But since "Slow Jamz," Foxx has been steadily adding to his musical
credentials. There was his second R&B/pop hit with West, the infectious
"Gold Digger," as well as an appearance on 50 Cent's album "The Massacre"
("Build You Up").
Foxx began recording "Unpredictable" nearly three years ago between
juggling roles in "Stealth," the recently released "Jarhead" and the
just-wrapped "Miami Vice." During the recording process, he worked to
strike a happy medium between his old-school R&B influences (including
Prince and Zapp) and contemporary hip-hop faves (such as Young Jeezy and
50 Cent), without letting the "Ray" afterglow overwhelm the proceedings.
"It's something I've been toying with for a long time," Foxx says. "How do
you capture the club crowd with R&B while still keeping it hip-hop, young
and with a bounce to it? That's the way we wrote a lot of the songs."
Working with J Records executive VP of A&R Peter Edge, Foxx hooked up with
such contemporary R&B/hip-hop songwriter/producers as the aforementioned
Garrett, Mike City, Harold Lily, Tank, Polow Da Don, Warryn Campbell,
Timbaland, 112's Daron Jones and Mr. ColliPark. These collaborations, Foxx
notes, mark the major difference between his two albums.
"I've got some real writers and producers this time and a real record
label that has the money. I didn't have anything back then. I waited 11
years because I didn't want to be out there looking goofy. Like, 'Man,
what is he doing?' "
Edge describes the 15 songs on "Unpredictable" as reminiscent of an
old-fashioned vinyl album. "Side one would be the club suite; side two the
bedroom suite," he says. "This album manages to translate Jamie's
Among the songs suited for the club suite are "DJ Play a Love Song" with
"Slow Jamz" colleague Twista and "Extravaganza." The latter, another
pairing with West, was an August setup single later issued as a 12-inch,
$5.98 vinyl single in October. Its No. 77 debut on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop
Songs chart marked Foxx's first chart entry as a lead artist since 1994.
In the mood for the bedroom suite are such selections as "Warm Bed,"
"Three Letter Word" and a duet with Mary J. Blige, "Love Changes." A nod
to Foxx's old-school roots, "Changes" was originally recorded by '70s R&B
group Mother's Finest.
Foxx co-wrote six songs on the album, including the introspective "Heaven"
and "Wish U Were Here." Produced by Babyface, "Heaven" is dedicated to
Foxx's teenage daughter. "Wish U Were Here" pays tribute to his beloved
grandmother who adopted and raised Foxx (born Eric Bishop).
"It's one of those songs where you sit with some Kleenex. It really
detoxes you," Foxx says of "Here."
Right now, the label's full-court press is on the title track/lead single,
which features Ludacris. Currently No. 20 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs
chart, the cut has also been garnering airplay at adult R&B radio
stations-"even with the Ludacris rap version," VP of promotion Randy
Franklin notes. As a result, Franklin says the label is making available a
version for adult radio without the rap.
In addition to Ludacris, Blige, Twista and West, the "Unpredictable" guest
list includes the Game, Snoop Dogg and Common. Such star power may appear
to some as an attempt to overshadow any shortcomings Foxx brings to the
table as a solo artist. Others may think the intention is to increase the
38-year-old Foxx's appeal to younger audiences. Edge and Foxx dismiss
Foxx says, "The record business has changed considerably since the days of
just R&B singing, wearing linen and walking in slow motion. You want to
make things an event now. So when you look at Jamie Foxx and Ludacris,
it's like the Batman and Robin effect."
Lamonda Williams, director of urban programming for Music Choice, predicts
Foxx's album will do well. Williams says Foxx's silver-screen exposure and
West connection are important, but his existing base of music fans should
not be overlooked.
"There's history with Foxx before he channeled Ray Charles," Williams
observes. "True Foxx fans respect and remember his first single
'Infatuation.' Embarrassingly, we liked his writing on Adina Howard's
'T-Shirt and My Panties On.' Sonically, his voice is on point, and the
piano skills are tight. This is no fluke or an actor-trying-to-sing
The "Unpredictable" media blitz kicked into gear Nov. 29 when Foxx
showcased his singing skills on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Additionally,
Foxx will make high-profile TV appearances on "Today" (Dec. 19), "Live
With Regis and Kelly" (Dec. 21), "Late Show With David Letterman" (Dec.
22) and "The View" (Dec. 23).
Describing himself as "fearless," Foxx says he is up for the
"Unpredictable" challenges. "Hats off to the people who do this every
single day. The record business is tough. But as long as I got my mojo, I
can get out there and do whatever.
With New Solo Disc, Gap Band Leader Reinvents Himself As 'King Of R&B'
Charlie Wilson may end the statement with an infectious, high-pitched
giggle, but he's only half-joking.
''I'm the king of R&B," the singer-songwriter says. ''Bobby Brown ain't
been showing up lately."
With a new, well-received solo album riding the charts, the R.
Kelly-produced ''Charlie, Last Name Wilson," the Gap Band lead singer may
be on to something. If you consider the major influence Wilson has had on
male R&B singers of the hip-hop era (Kelly, Aaron Hall, and Keith Sweat
chief among them), then the gregarious Oklahoma native may be the prime
candidate for the throne.
On his latest album, whose title track has been a mainstay on urban radio
for months, the performer's melismatic, Stevie Wonder-influenced vocals
are placed in synthetic, hip-hop-splashed productions. The set is spotted
with guest appearances by much younger performers such as Twista,
will.i.am of the Black-Eyed Peas, Snoop Dogg, even Justin Timberlake. But
Wilson is never lost in the mix, blazing the sometimes-lackluster material
with the soul fire that kept the Gap Band in the top 10 during the late
'70s and early '80s.
''Working with R. Kelly and the younger artists reminded me how to take
chances," Wilson says. ''I never would have sung so many words in a lyric.
I didn't want to lose old fans, but I'm gaining new ones. I had to
understand that I wasn't cutting a Gap Band record. I could go to the
edge, so to speak."
With its beat-driven arrangements and rap cameos, ''Charlie, Last Name
Wilson" is much slicker than the work Wilson does with his brothers Ronnie
and Robert of the Gap Band. The funk factor is virtually nonexistent, and
Wilson is transformed into a cornrows-wearing mack daddy. On just about
every track, especially the title cut, he epitomizes the flashy older guy
in the club, the one trying to woo the young honeys with his smoothed-out
''Hey, it's hard in this business," Wilson says. ''It's hard because a lot
of programmers want to tell me I'm too old to be on the radio. You have to
reinvent. If some young kid programmer don't like your record, it don't
get played. I'm too old? It's crazy."
The singer, who founded the Gap Band with his brothers in the early '70s,
doesn't divulge his age. ''I'm ageless," he says. ''It doesn't do nothing
but toy with your mind when you think about your age, man. Ain't nothing
old about me."
Wilson's hits with the Gap Band -- ''Outstanding," ''Yearning for Your
Love," ''I Don't Believe You Want to Get Up and Dance (Oops, Up Side Your
Head)" -- are frequently sampled on modern R&B and hip-hop songs. Signed
to Jive Records, Wilson is one of the few funk-era vocalists on a major
label these days. His peers -- Michael Henderson, Teddy Pendergrass,
Jeffrey Osborne -- are either largely inactive or recording for small,
''I've got . . . Jive behind me, so that makes a difference," Wilson says.
''I can name a lot of huge stars from yesterday who ain't getting no love
from the industry, which is sad. I feel lucky 'cause it's rough out here."
When Wilson isn't playing solo dates or shows with his brothers around the
world, he's at home on his 20-acre ranch in Acton, Calif., a rural
community in Los Angeles County. ''It's a cool, little country town," he
says. ''It's quiet as hell. It has a studio, a guesthouse. It's my getaway
Mahin, Wilson's wife of 11 years, travels with the busy singer. These
days, Wilson says he's much more focused on his career. He has long given
up the hard party life and the recreational drug use that came with it.
''Yeah, man, my wife is everywhere I go," Wilson says. ''She makes sure I
stay out of trouble. I need to, 'cause it's easy to get into trouble on
the road. That was my problem in the '80s."
As the self-proclaimed king of R&B, he has to exude a more evolved,
''Hey, I have to put it down for the kids," Wilson says. ''I can give you
the funk, anything you want if I can get in the door."
Anthony Hamilton Going To Where He's At
Anthony Hamilton shatters the stereotype of the smooth-operating, sexed-up
You could fill a fat paragraph with all the rules R&B singer Anthony
Hamilton has broken.
He's not young by pop standards (34). He's not trendy, either, seldom
using hip-hop elements in his music. And he doesn't present himself as a
sex symbol, refusing to take either the R. Kelly-style bump-and-grind
route or the Brian McKnight adult lover-man part.
Yet Hamilton managed to sell 1.2 million copies of his major-label debut,
2003's "Coming From Where I'm From," while scoring three Grammy
nominations and a thick wad of worshipful reviews.
No wonder his followup CD, "Ain't Nobody Worryin'," which is out Tuesday,
rates as the most anticipated R&B album of the year.
"I've carved out a little niche for myself," the singer says. "I knew that
I wanted to touch people in the mainstream, but in a way that's not so
obvious. I found that you don't have to compromise your music to sell."
Not if you're willing to spend more than a decade sticking to your guns,
Hamilton's early career represents one of the great endurance tests in
recent music history. He had three separate contracts with troubled record
companies in the decade before his breakthrough. That resulted in two
stillborn albums, the second of which, 1999's "Soul Life," only saw the
light of day six years after it was recorded, thanks to the success of
"Coming Where I'm Coming From."
Today, Hamilton can afford to be philosophical about his history. "I had
the chance to let everyone else's ideas about what my music should sound
like fall apart," he says. "Now I really know who I am."
The assurance shows in the force of Hamilton's singing, as well as in the
rare balance he strikes in his music. Though he retains the pre-rap values
of old soul, his records don't sound retro. They're wholly contemporary.
Some of that stems from their funky instrumentation. Hamilton also credits
it to the urgency of his vocals, fueled by his hunger to make it after so
"My last album was my last chance," he says. "There's an energy from that
that makes you overlook age."
Hamilton also benefited from a youthful image, bolstered by his
appearances as a guest vocalist on a host of rap songs before his first
album arrived. He sang with everyone from the Nappy Roots and Nelly to
His role on the Nappy song "Po' Folks" led directly to Hamilton being
signed by Jermaine Dupri for his SoSoDef imprint.
Hamilton brings a distinctly Southern sound to all his records. Born in
Charlotte, N.C., he sings - or groans - in a gritty voice that could only
come from someone reared below the Mason-Dixon line. "I got whooped with a
big ole country belt," Hamilton says with a laugh.
His new songs of the South come with references to preachers, collard
greens and the kind of large women who unapologetically indulge in soul
food, as on "Sista Big Bones."
While that song is sure to generate giggles, the singer means it
seriously. "It's to let women know that there are men out there who really
appreciate a full-figured woman who takes care of herself," he explains.
"It's lovely to see a woman with a big smile and big ankles and booty!"
Not that Hamilton is on the prowl these days. Two months ago, he married
his girlfriend of three years, Tarsha. On the new album's lead single,
"Can't Let Go," he sings about objections some have had to his
"Everybody wants to tell you who to be with," he explains. "People say,
'Who is she? She's not an industry chick.' But she's a really lovable
woman who's into family and church, and we present ourselves in a way
that's pleasing to God."
Some of God's followers may not be so pleased with another song on the
album: "Preacher's Daughter" accuses certain pastors of hypocrisy.
"The pastor is somebody you're supposed to look up to," Hamilton explains.
"But I've been noticing lately more and more of these pastors have been in
the tabloids, jumping out on their wives, or with their kids getting into
trouble. They play like they're more high and mighty. But how can you call
yourself a man when you're not taking care of your family?"
Hamilton sings a lot on the new album about what it means to be a man. To
him, it's about admitting vulnerability. On the most moving track, "Never
Love Again," he sings in an open-hearted falsetto about the rawest risks
He wants it to serve as a message to men. "We put ourselves in a prison,"
he explains. "Men have this thing where they feel that if you're
vulnerable, you're weak. But it's not true. Men have been waiting to
exhale for a long time. I'm here to tell them I've got the asthma pump."
Hamilton hopes to take that message to a broader audience in the next
year. Instead of just touring with other R&B acts, he hopes to pair with
the Dave Matthews Band and Santana.
If that broader audience doesn't respond to his message, however, Hamilton
can take comfort in something else.
"Everybody likes to be paid for their work," he explains. "But if you
chase sales and popularity, you lose what's most important to you."
Namely, your soul.
Lou Rawls Being Treated for Lung Cancer
Singer Lou Rawls is being treated for lung cancer, and his estranged wife
said he also has brain cancer and suggested his condition is dire.
"Don't count me out, brother," Rawls said Thursday night from his room at
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. "There's been many people who have been
diagnosed with this kind of thing, and they're still jumpin' and pumpin'."
Rawls, in the interview with the Arizona Republic, said he has received
alternative and traditional medical treatments for lung cancer. He said he
quit his regular smoking habit 35 years ago.
The lung cancer was diagnosed a year ago and the brain cancer in May, his
estranged wife, Nina, said during a marriage annulment hearing Thursday in
"By his doctor's admission, he is not expected to live much more," she
said. Rawls' attorney, Robert L. Schwartz, attended the annulment hearing,
but did not discuss the singer's prognosis.
Rawls, who has lived in Scottsdale, Ariz., since 2003, said in court
papers that he is trying to annul his two-year marriage and protect
hundreds of thousands of dollars of assets that his wife "absconded with."
His estranged wife, who has worked as Rawls' manager since 2003, says she
transferred nearly $350,000 into an account that she solely controls to
prevent one of Rawls' two adult daughters from seizing the money.
Rawls, 70, has sold more than 40 million albums and won three Grammys
during a career spanning more than four decades.
His voice has been described as "sweet as sugar, soft as velvet, strong as
steel, smooth as butter." His hits include "Love Is a Hurtin' Thing,"
"Dead End Street" and "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine."
He has also appeared on television shows and in movies, including "Leaving
Las Vegas" and "Blues Brothers 2000."
His charitable work has included telethons that helped the United Negro
College Fund raise nearly $200 million.
Mary J., R. Kelly, 'Brother' Kanye Giving Keyshia Cole A Rookie Boost
So what had the R&B newcomer so in awe? Perhaps that she rocked the crowd
with a rendition of her latest single, "I Should Have Cheated" ? Or maybe
that she won the Next Award for newcomers? Actually, it had nothing to do
with the show itself, but rather something someone else said about her
"I believe Keyshia has a lot on her mind, so she's got her story to tell
that's gonna blow everybody away just like the story that I have to tell
just continues to blow people away," Mary J. Blige told MTV News just as
Cole was accepting her award. "And that's what helps people, every chapter
of your life. So she's on her way to being a very big star."
By the time she got backstage, Cole downplayed her award ("The hustle
ain't over, it's just, 'Congratulations, you've hustled this far,' " she
quipped), but took Mary J.'s comments to heart.
"I definitely have a lot to say," she agreed. "Like that's the whole
mission behind me doing what I'm doing because it's a lot of young people
under me that need to know certain things that I know now."
Like, say, the balancing act known as relationships, a theme that runs
through most of Cole's debut, The Way It Is, including her fourth and
final single, the more upbeat "Love."
"It's just a wonderful song about when you find love for the first time
and you never knew what you was missing until love was gone," Cole
explained. "And then it comes back, and then it leaves again and comes
back," she added with a smirk.
Cole planned to shoot the video after wrapping up her opening duties on
the Kanye West tour (see "Kanye Announces North American Tour Dates").
Speaking of Kanye, Cole described the rapper/producer as her "brother" and
said the two are already working on her next record. Cole has also booked
studio time with R. Kelly, Jagged Edge and John Legend.
"I'm learning a lot from everybody right now in my life," Cole said. "It's
all wonderful experiences and that's why I grow every day is 'cause of
Singer Goapele Embraces 'Change'
With fans like Prince and Stevie Wonder, is it any surprise that Oakland,
Calif.-based singer/songwriter Goapele is feeling pretty good about her
Her sophomore album, "Change It All," is due December 27, and it will be
her first release under a joint venture between Columbia/Sony Urban and
her own Skyblaze Recordings.
Goapele independently released her first full-length album, "Even Closer,"
through RED, following her EP, "Closer." An expanded version of "Even
Closer" was then rereleased through Sony Urban. The title has sold 147,000
copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
After performing music from that album for a couple of years, Goapele, who
writes all of her songs, built her own Bay Area studio. It was there that
she created the new project.
"I could spend most of my days and months in there, unlike on the last
album, where we barely had any budget at all and it was hard to get into
studios," Goapele says. "I didn't feel like I got to do as much
experimenting and take as much time" on the last album.
The experimenting she did on "Change It All" led to an eclectic sound that
ranges from vintage soul to edgy pop. Goapele counts Nina Simone and Bjork
among her musical influences.
"The album is really eclectic and features about every different mood and
thought I went through while recording -- from aspects of love to war to
just trying to express different stories that don't always get out there
that happen in our daily lives," Goapele says.
In an effort to reach new fans, Goapele will spend much of the coming
months on the road. She is on tour with Lyfe Jennings until December 18,
and Bay Area shows are planned around the new year.
Additionally, she has aligned with the Youth Aids Foundation and the Keep
a Child Alive Foundation. A Web site, changeitall.org, which promotes
Goapele's musical themes of social/political activism and creativity, has
been launched as a sideline campaign for her album.
The site was started "to really see how far we could go with the idea and
not let it just be a song that talks about what changes we can make in
this world," Goapele explains. "It's a way for everyday people to get
Stars Salute Stevie At Grammy Jam
"What I love about Stevie Wonder is the way he makes people feel," says
India.Arie. "He's one of the best examples of how music can heal."
Those comments from Wonder's Motown labelmate captured the sentiment
exuded throughout the Recording Academy's second annual Grammy Jam. The
three-hour-plus event saluting Wonder's career was held Dec. 10 at the
Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, staged in conjunction with the
Entertainment Industry Foundation. Last year's inaugural Grammy Jam paid
tribute to Earth, Wind & Fire.
The music-filled evening opened with the 22-time Grammy winner singing his
1973 No. 1 R&B hit, "Higher Ground." Among the diverse lineup of artists
offering their interpretations of songs in the career of Wonder were Chris
Brown, Jamie Foxx, Anthony Hamilton, Herbie Hancock, Hootie & the
Blowfish, Kem, Mary Mary, Keb Mo, Tamia, Lizz Wright, Josh Groban, Jesse
McCartney and George Clinton.
A major highlight was Wonder's reunion with members of his famed backing
group Wonderlove, including guitarist Ray Parker Jr. and singer Deniece
Williams. Attendees included Olivia Newton-John, actress Jane Seymour,
Prince, comedian/actor Damon Wayans and Motown chief executive Sylvia
The finale was a mini-Wonder concert that featured songs from his
Grammy-nominated current album, "A Time to Love," as well as earlier hits.
"The songs I've written have been from the deepest part of me and the
deepest truth in me," said Wonder in prefacing remarks.
In his opening comments, Recording Academy president Neil Portnow
acknowledged the passing earlier that day of comedy icon Richard Pryor. He
added that the five-time Grammy winner will receive a lifetime achievement
award ("for a lifetime of laughter") during the Grammy ceremony on Feb. 8.
Portnow noted that Pryor and his wife Jennifer were told of the board of
trustees-voted honor in November.
Presented by Mercedes-Benz USA, Grammy Jam helps advance music and arts
education. This year's event benefited such nonprofit organizations as the
GRAMMY Foundation, InnerSpark/California State Summer School for the Arts
and the Museum of Contemporary Art.